We road tested affordable natural deodorants to see which stack up

Illustration by TwylaMae
Words by Hannah Cole

Apologies to all who came in contact with me over the last few weeks.

If the reports are true, deodorant could be leading us to an early grave.

The contained aluminium and parabens have reportedly been linked to breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Without absolute proof, the safest route is still, undoubtedly, the natural way.

But trying to find a deodorant that is free from nasties and actually works is no easy feat. If I had the budget, I’d stock up on Aesop’s offering (how could you not trust something so beautifully packaged?). Alas I am but an everyday millennial, so I decided to do the hard (read: smelly) work for you in testing out supermarket finds. Apologies to all who came in contact with me over the last few weeks.

Here’s what went down with five days trialling each.

Brand: Thursday Plantation
Tea Tree Deodorant (60ml)

The label reads ‘Aluminium Free’ (an immediate plus) but the lime-green branding brings back traumatising memories of bulging ticks on camping trips. Scent-wise, it’s fresh and natural: a positive. I do question why my armpit would need a dose of natural antiseptic but I roll with it, literally, as I apply for day one. And, success! I arrive home after a busy day minus offensive odours.

By day three though, I’m pinning my elbows to my sides to avoid any arm-lifting. The success has quickly worn off.

Brand: My Aura Organics
All Natural Deodorant Stick (65g)

I’m open to new things but a deodorant stick? That’s almost too far for a roll-on preacher. The clean, modest packaging wins me over though – it looks natural without being hippie. But at $9, I’m expecting my underarms to sparkle or shoot rainbows.

I untwist the lid and almost don’t go ahead. It’s like applying a giant stick of lipgloss to your underarm, except the surface is rough and concave, not delicate and soft. It’s messy and it’s clumpy, but I do love the bergamot, lime and coconut scent – almost good enough to eat.

One of two things happen each day: a) I have dandruff-like flakes falling from my pits as the paste dries; or b) soap-like clumps lodge in unappealing patches. If you’re wearing long-sleeves, it’s no problem. But again, after a few days, even that bergamot fails to mask the underlying scent of a busy girl.

Brand: Body Crystal
Botanica Roll-On (80ml)
Price: $5.80

With the least appealing packaging (more Home Brand than eco-chic), my expectations are minimal. I always judge a book by its cover. But Body Crystal brings me back to the much-needed safety and comfort of roll-on. And, with a slight aloe vera scent, it’s very un-offensive on the nose.

To my surprise, Body Crystal delivers on its intention. My clothes stay relatively fresh, my armpits aren’t frequently dripping and, most importantly, I feel comfortable. Day one through to day five, I’m primarily odourless and protected. Practical, no mess, no stress.

Brand: Lush
Name: The Greenwich Deodorant Powder (75g)

Supermarkets are lagging on the natural front, so, for my final option, I visit Lush. I spot deodorant powder and almost walk back out that door: if I can’t manage the stick, how will I master the powder? But I purchase for all your sakes.

The powder itself is chalky, a bit like talc, with an overwhelmingly mediocre scent. My first three thoughts: How does this work? How much do I put on? Will it mark my clothes? On paper, you simply sprinkle powder onto your palms and then transfer to your pits. In practice, it’s awkward and messy and leaves a suspicious line of powder along your side. I lasted three days with this stinker. I’ve never felt more self-conscious or uncomfortable with my scent, and that’s coming from a past Bikram yogi.

I went crawling back, with the proverbial tail between legs, to the most unlikely winner, Body Crystal. I apologised for being so judgmental and learnt from the error of my ways. Until I come across a better-looking, equally-successful option, that is.

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